Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia….President Barack Obama reconfirmed U.S. and allied commitment against terrorism around the globe, including the Asia-Pacific region, during a speech today at the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “The Asia Pacific is absolutely critical to promoting security, prosperity and human dignity around the world,” Obama said. “That’s why I’ve devoted so much of my foreign policy to deepening America’s engagement with this region. And I’m pleased that on this trip we made progress across the board.”
President Barack Obama visits a Dignity for Children Foundation classroom in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The president noted that terrorism is no stranger to the region.
“Over the years, our friends here in Asia have been victims of terrorism, and many of them are close counterterrorism partners with us,” he said.
Obama said he used part of his time at the summit to work with regional partners who are members of the anti-ISIL coalition. These include Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
Obama said the United States has built and led a broad coalition of some 65 nations against ISIL, and the contribution of those other nations is very important to the coalition’s success.
“Given the frequent focus on America’s leadership of this campaign, sometimes the contributions of our partners are overlooked,” he said. “Nearly two dozen nations — among them Turkey and our Arab partners — contribute in some way to the military campaign, which has taken more than 8,000 strikes against ISIL so far.”
Obama said the United States is ready to cooperate with other countries that are determined to fight ISIL. He noted that 15 countries deployed personnel to train and support local forces in Iraq.
“The United Arab Emirates and Germany are organizing 25 coalition partners in helping to stabilize areas in Iraq liberated from ISIL. Italy is coordinating the multinational effort to train Iraqi police,” he said.
Regarding Syria, the president said U.S. leadership brought all the key countries together in Vienna to discuss a common understanding on the principles for ending the Syrian civil war. On the humanitarian front in that nation, the United States is helping to lead the effort to mobilize more aid for the Syrian people, including refugees.
Obama said the fight against terrorism is global, with more than 40 countries passing or strengthening laws to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and 34 nations, including the United States, arresting foreign terrorist fighters.
“Saudi Arabia is helping to coordinate the crackdown on ISIL financing. The United Arab Emirates’ new messaging center is working to discredit ISIL’s propaganda, and Malaysia just announced the creation of its own center to do the same,” he said.
The president said that more than 100 nations, 20 institutions and 120 civil society groups, including many Muslim community leaders from around the world, joined an anti-terrorism summit at the United Nations. These nations and groups are now “part of a global movement against ISIL and its twisted ideology.”
The President said the coalition will not relent or accept terrorist threats as the new norm.
Not the ‘New Normal’
“We will not accept the idea that terrorist assaults on restaurants and theaters and hotels are the new normal — or that we are powerless to stop them,” President Obama said. “After all, that’s precisely what terrorists like ISIL want, because, ultimately, that’s the only way that they can win.”
Obama said that, as the U.S. president, he will not allow terrorists to make people panic, live in fear, change their behavior patterns, abandon their partners and allies or retreat from the world. He added that everyone can do their part not to create a perception bolstering ISIL’s propaganda, which falsely asserts that somehow the U.S. is at war with Islam.
“The United States could never be at war with any religion because America is made up of multiple religions,” Obama said. “We’re strengthened by people from every religion, including Muslim Americans. Prejudice and discrimination helps ISIL and undermines our national security.”
Continue to Lead
President Obama said the U.S. will continue to lead the global coalition to roll back ISIL in Iraq and Syria to “take out more of their leaders and commanders so they will not be able to threaten us.”
“Even as we destroy ISIL on the battlefield — and we will destroy them — we will take back land that they are currently in,” the president said.
“We will cut off their financing. We will hunt down their leadership. We will dismantle their networks and their supply lines, and we will ultimately destroy them. Even as we are in the process of doing that, we want to make sure that we don’t lose our own values and our own principles. And we can all do our part by upholding the values of tolerance and diversity and equality that help keep America strong,” he said.
The president said collaboration will continue between the U.S. and other nations to destroy terrorism around the world.
“We’ll keep working with our allies and partners for the opportunity and justice that helps defeat violent extremism,” he added. “We’ll keep standing up for the human rights and dignity of all people — because that is contrary to what these terrorists believe. The hateful vision of an organization like ISIL is no match for the strength of nations and people around the world who are united to live in security and peace and in harmony.”